Summer in December, Wisconsin Vacation Part III

I know that it is December and we got back from summer vacation months and months ago, but I have to finally write this because Sam keeps asking for it. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW, SAM?! ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?!

Remember how months ago we went to a cottage and then a cabin in Wisconsin? Well, after that we went to a resort town called Wisconsin Dells. We’d been there three years ago and Team Stimey was ready to go back.

We arrived way after bedtime, so we checked in to our hotel and got ready for bed. I remembered something we had left in the car and went back out to be greeted by the dawning realization that very clearly there was a cheerleader camp taking place at the resort and ours was the only room on our entire floor that wasn’t full of teenage girls.

The horror. The horror.

I should take a moment here to pay homage to the hero of our vacation: my noise canceling headphones. Seriously. This would have been a very different vacation without them, especially in Cheerleaderville.

Jack in particular had been really excited to go back to the waterpark. He, along with Quinn, couldn’t wait to get in the wave pool and the lazy river and the waterslides.

Photo of Jack in a double inner tube totally reclining.

This is one of his relaxo places.

Photo of a double red waterslide with Jack going down it on the left and Quinn on the right.

And this is his excito place—Jack on the left, Quinn on the right.

Sam and Alex, however, were a little less excited by the whole deal.

Photo of pool-side chairs and tables. Alex and Sam are sitting at one reading books.

If you look closely, you can see Killjoy One and Killjoy Two reading books at a table.

Alex did eventually join the water people and Sam spent some time swimming, but I think he might have only gone on one waterslide total over the course of three days.

That’s okay though, because there are so many other things to do at Wisconsin Dells. I spearheaded one particularly successful outing to take advantage of these attractions early on in our stay.

I had seen a poster for something called Zombie Outbreak and it looked awesome. It’s like laser tag where you wind your way through a dark, twisty building and people dressed as zombies jump out at you and you have to shoot them in the head or else they tag you and you lose points.

Clearly this was the right place to take my kids.

I asked everyone in the family if they wanted to join me and even showed them a short video I found online so they could know what to expect. Turns out, the video didn’t fully capture the experience of Zombie Outbreak.

Selfie of me, Sam, and Jack in front of the Zombie Outbreak sign.

Quinn and Alex were smart enough to hear “zombie” and stay in the car. Sam and Jack were foolishly brave.

You guys, it was so much fun. Although when we were getting our training and Jack was all, “I don’t like jump scares,” I probably should have guessed that it wasn’t going to go well. At least I learned who I’d be able to count on in the zombie apocalypse. Answer: ME.

It went SO badly. Jack was devastated by the experience and ran out of the building crying once he was finally able to escape. Sam covered his dismay a little better.

In a desperate bid to make Jack love me again after I permanently scarred him, I suggested that we do some go-karting.

Mission success! Jack loved me again. Quinn, on the other hand, was collateral damage in a high speed go-kart wreck caused by reckless teenagers and bashed his head against the headrest, sending him to the car in tears, making that two of my kids I’d badly damaged in the span of an hour.

Jack in a go-kart

Jack took Quinn’s extra ticket after he was injured. As long as only one kid at a time is emotionally, psychologically, or physically hurt, I’m doing okay, right?

Knowing when we were beat, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and more swimming, which, thanks to poolside dining, took place at the same time. Dinner was made even better by the arrival of vermin looking for a handout.

Photo of Quinn eating a burger in the foreground, with a raccoon visible on the other side of a chainlink fence.

I’m guessing that raccoon is pretty well fed.

The last time we’d been to Wisconsin Dells, the standout event was JET BOAT! Naturally, we wanted to do it again. JET BOAT! is a tour of the area waterways on a speedboat that spins out and splashes the passengers and is generally awesome for the whole family. Not like a zombie apocalypse at all.

Photo of Jack, Quinn, Alex, and Sam on the boat before the tour.

Look at everyone all dry and excited.

Photo taken of the front of the boat entirely engulfed in splashing water

Then this happened.

Photo of Jack, Quinn, Alex, and Sam, now quite wet.

And we were left with this. If you look really closely, you can actually see water dripping from Jack’s nose.

Alex really wanted to go miniature golfing at this very cool course that we drove past and we were going to do it after JET BOAT! but for obvious reasons, we were unable to follow through on this and therefore Alex wasn’t able to do the ONE GODDAMN THING he wanted to do in all of Wisconsin Dells and we are MONSTERS.

As we did each night at the Dells, we spent the evening at the indoor water park. Jack and Quinn spent hours in the lazy river and lured me in as well. I liked to float happily around and occasionally take photos of my kids with my phone safely encased in its waterproof pouch. Jack liked to direct my happy floating to spots underneath waterfalls.

Three photos of Jack and I 1. Us floating 2. Me under falling water, Jack laughing hysterically 3. Jack and I laughing.

This is probably the least flattering trio of photos of me ever, but it is unlikely you will even notice that what with Jack OMG JACK AND HIS FACE behind me.

We only had one day left, of which we took full advantage.

Photo of Jack in a swimsuit holding a watersliding mat.

Jack and I went on a bunch of waterslides together. He’s a fun companion.

Alex and Jack on a roller coaster waterslide.

This is Alex with Jack on the roller coaster waterslide. I never even knew such a thing existed. It was great fun.

Sam at the bottom of a waterslide.

This is the one slide Sam went on. I think he lost a bet and had to do it. I wasn’t going to miss the chance to photograph him.

Jack and Quinn hugging in the lazy river.

And I’ve probably said it 800 times, but Quinn and Jack together? They are the best. Here they are hugging and carrying each other in the lazy river. Just because.

“But wait, Stimey,” you may be thinking, “Did you go on any waterslides? Did anyone take a photo of you?”

Don’t worry. I left my phone with Alex when I went on a slide and he captured me at the bottom.

Photo of a splash. No person is visible.

I know it’s brave to put a swimsuit photo of me online.

Our very last night in Wisconsin Dells, we went to dinner at the hotel steakhouse. We’d gone to the same restaurant last time we’d been there. Their motto is “Where Size Matters.” The first time we’d gone, Alex and I had ordered a side dish of potatoes made up of probably five pounds of potatoes that made us feel bad for being Americans.

Photo of a giant cleaver. Quinn has his head on a block under its edge and Sam is pretending to hold the handle.

This blade outside the steakhouse wasn’t sharp enough.

But—and this is probably why Sam wants me to write this post so goldang bad—Sam remembered from the last time we were there that there is a 50-ounce steak on the menu and he had been talking for three years about how he was going to eat one.

But Alex and I are reasonable people—WE ARE—and no way were we going to buy him a 50-ounce steak. That said, we were happy to order the 50-ounce and two plating fees so all three kids could share it.

Sam sitting in front of a plate with a 50-ounce steak on it.

That is a lot of steak.

Unfortunately, both Quinn and Jack had filled up on bread and they each ate about a bite of it then returned their uneaten portions to Sam’s plate.

Jack and Quinn, mouths full of bread.

Based on this photo, I think Jack may just have been too tired to eat as well.

Alex and I consumed our reasonably sized dinners and watched Sam consume huge amounts of food in a short amount of time. One of the staff even came out from the kitchen under the pretense of removing something from our table to gawk.

Two photos of Sam gobbling a steak and one of him giving two thumbs up over a plate with just bones.

He even gnawed off the hard-to-get meat stuck to the bones.

It took him maybe ten minutes. It was, quite honestly, a feat.

Photo of a brownie sundae in front of Alex

And then he shared a dessert with his brothers.

He was a little hysterical for the rest of the night. I think he went into Meat Shock. I kept a close eye on him to make sure he wasn’t going to barf or die or something. He seemed to emerged unscathed.

Sam holding a t-shirt that says "Where Size Matters"

Plus, the restaurant gave him a t-shirt!

The next day we checked out early to start our long drive home. Alex took a bunch of our stuff to the car…

Photo of Alex pushing a luggage cart piled full of luggage.

It turns out that Team Stimey needs a lot of stuff to survive.

…and the kids did their part.

Jack and Quinn carrying two empty cups and a stuffed animal.

Thanks for carrying those two EMPTY cups and a stuffed cat, guys.

From there it was just a billion and six hours to drive home.

Alex driving holding a stuffed cat so it looks like the cat is driving.

This is how you amuse yourself on a billion and six hour drive.

This turned out to be one of the most fun and relaxing vacations that Team Stimey has been on for a long time. It was nothing like the long, stressful stretch of time that it took me to write about it on the interwebs.

Now it might be time to go on another vacation!

Marathon Training and How it Sucks SOOOOOOO Hard

I came up with that title up there at about mile 16.5 of my 18-mile run today.

I think I’ve told you that I’m running the Houston Marathon in January. In case I haven’t, here you go: I am running the Houston Marathon in January.

That means I am currently in the thick of training for it. Marathon training, as it turns out, is constant. It never stops. You finish a long training run, take a couple of days and start again. I feel like all I ever do is run.

Because of the relentless nature, I do seem to be be approaching readiness. I ran 17 miles last weekend and it was Hard, but not impossible. For the first time, 26.2 miles didn’t seem undoable. I was encouraged and ready to hit this weekend’s 18 miles.

My guiding mission during this time has been to (a) not get injured and (b) not get sick. Knock on wood, so far so good on the injury, but last Wednesday I woke up sick.

I debated skipping my 8-mile run that day to rest up, but after napping for most of the day, I decided to suck it up and head out. I ran pretty slow, but it wasn’t too painful, so I decided to stick with the 10K race I had Thursday in lieu of a 5-mile training run. That went even slower and less well.

The real test though, was this weekend’s long run—scheduled for 18 miles. I was worried about it. I spent a lot of time Thursday and Friday sleeping and willing myself to be NOT sick by Saturday/run day.

I had a Plan B though. I figured if I got into my run and felt bad that I would switch this week’s long run (18 miles) with next week’s (13 miles). I woke up feeling okay, if a little coughy and phlegmy.

I caught a ride with my family to the doughnut shop to start me a little farther away from my final destination. (Do you have any idea how goddamn hard it is to find a mostly downhill route of 18 miles in the DC area?)

Selfie of me smiling in front of a painting on a building of a duck flipping a doughnut.

Plus, do you know how virtuous you can feel setting out for an 18-mile run when the rest of your family is chugging doughnuts?

I headed out with high hopes and a decision to evaluate how the run was going at about mile 11. Here’s how the run was going:

Mile 1.5: Whine. My legs are tired. I stop in at a 7-11 to buy a Gatorade and impulse buy a Snickers bar to stash in my Camelbak for later if necessary.

Mile: 3: It’s hot. I’m going to take off my gloves and earwrap.

Mile 4: I should put that earwrap back on.

Mile 4.5: Christ, it’s hot. I take off my gloves and earwrap and tie my jacket around my waist.

Mile 6: I’m cold. Jacket back on. Hold off on the gloves and earwrap for now.

Mile 8: I pass the bottom of the road that leads to my house. I look longingly up it.

Mile 8.5: This run is a slog. I sit on a stump for a while to evaluate my life choices. Eventually I stand up and keep going.

Mile 10: Everything warm is back on for good.

Mile 11.25: I sit on a bench and eat my Snickers bar. This is a GOOD life choice.

Mile 12: Should I stop at 13 miles? No. Mostly because I don’t want to run 18 miles next weekend. Also, I only have a 10K left to run. How hard could that be?

Mile 14: Hard.

Mile 16: I sit on a bench to suck the last of my water from my Camelback and watch a really sad looking woman look for her lost keys on the C&O canal trail.

Mile 16.1: She found her keys! It is a miracle! She is so happy she looks like she is going to cry. I congratulate her and continue to shuffle along.

Mile 17: Every step I take carries me a longer distance than I have ever run consecutively. I also start to wonder where exactly I am going to be when I reach 18 miles. Far from any reasonable exit point on the trail? Unable to move? Virginia?

Mile 18: Turns out I am one stinky, sketchy staircase away from Georgetown. I climb it and talk to Alex on the phone who is already on his way to pick me up. I tell him at what intersection I am sitting and shivering. Then my phone, unable to function in the cold anymore, dies from battery loss.

Selfie. I look really tired.

But not before I take this super desperate looking selfie.

I sit and shiver and wait for a surly but heroic Alex to arrive.

Marathon training sucks hard.

I’m doing it though. And if I can run this 18 miles while sick and cold, I can do 26 in Houston—as long as I can keep injury and sickness away for the next 50 days.

Also, my family saved a doughnut for me. I ate it when I got home. It was delicious.

Race Report: Oceans 50 Relay

I was lucky enough to be able to get away to Florida last weekend with a bunch of my running friends (Team MLC, represent!) to run a relay race. It was really good to be in a pretty place with a fun team activity and good people. I left town last Thursday, arriving in Jacksonville at 10 pm, just in time to be picked up by local heroes Lyda and Bob who took me to Lyda’s beach house where we promptly went to our respective beds. We’s old.

The next morning was for beach walking, my favorite part of which is watching the funny birds who run around in the surf.

Photo of sand and the ocean and a little bird walking there.

I relate to these little birds because they look like they kinda wanna wade, but then the water gets too close and they run away, but then they want to get close to the water, but NOT REALLY! I do all that too.

I spent a lot of that first beach walk wondering if I should collect some shells for my kids because last time we were down there, Heather collected shells for her kids and I didn’t and I told my kids about that and Quinn OBJECTED strenuously that he had no shells but collecting shells involves a lot of bending over and looking at things and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that kind of commitment when instead I could just not mention shells to Quinn and all would be well, but I ended up deciding to collect shells and I then I totally enjoyed it and went home with a gallon-sized Ziploc full of them.

Team MLC members Marc and Heather arrived at the beach house just before lunch, which was great, and then we came back to the beach and collected more shells. Heather and Lyda walked in the water and got all wet.

Photo of the beach. Heather and Lyda are in shorts wading in the water.

My view from where I plunked myself on the beach, making an effort to touch as little sand as possible.

I sat on the beach in the sun looking like I was dressed for an entirely different season than my friends in my jeans, but it was warm and nice and decidedly un-wet.

Photo of a sandy beach. You can see part of my leg in the photo and I am pointing to a spot on the sand about six inches away from my leg.

The water mostly stayed far away from me, but one wave came up to the point where I am pointing in this photo. Nature almost touched me.

After that beach walk/sit, our final team member, Marisa, arrived and we drove off to the hotel where we would be spending the night prior to our race, which was about an hour away from Jacksonville in a place called Flagler County.

The race is the Oceans 50 Relay and I would highly recommend you run it. We had a six-person team and the race is made up of 12 legs, so each of us ran two. The whole thing took us eight and a half hours and no one had to sleep in the van or worry too much about stocking supplies for the race. The race was super well organized with really friendly volunteers and easy logistics. Plus! This race was set up so all but two of the exchanges had real, actual bathrooms with running water. Ten out of ten, highly recommended.

Team start times began at 5am and ran as late as 8 am, but because we’re us, our start time was at five (five. a. m.) but we were supposed to report to the start line an hour before start time so we could get our safety briefing (four. a.m.) which meant I needed to set my alarm for 3 am (and 3:15 am, then with the snooze, 3:24 am). (three. twenty. four. a. m.) Needless to say, I was in bed and asleep by 8:15.

I need to take a moment to mention that all day long I’d been finding little notes in my luggage. Alex, who has never done anything like it before, wrote me a series of encouraging little notes and put them in my shoes and in with my running clothes. I found my favorite one right before I went to bed for the night. He based it off of our team t-shirt, which I’d designed. See if you can guess which one Alex drew and which one I did:

Two photos: (1) A notecard on which is drawn a weird oblong with arms, legs, and a face. It says "Go Team MLC!!" with an arrow pointing to the oblong above words that say "Really bad banana!!" with the exclamations making a smiley face. (2) a green shirt with a super cute yellow banana on it surrounded by various wild animals and writing that says, "Team MLC will run through anything for a banana."

I’ll give you a hint: The banana I drew looks like a banana.

Somehow our entire team assembled in the hotel lobby at 3:45 as instructed and we blearily made our way to the start line where we learned such important safety details as “follow the route signs facing you, not the ones facing away from you” and “if it is pitch black, wear your head lamp and reflective vest.”

Marc totally failed the safety briefing by the way. The guy explained how the exchange number was the same as the number of the leg preceding it and then immediately asked, “What exchange comes at the end of leg two?” and Marc yelled really loudly, “THREE!” Fortunately, we were not immediately disqualified.

Lyda was our starting runner, so we lit her up like a Christmas tree and situated her at the start line.

Photo of Lyda wearing a safety vest and a lot of lights, looking up at a banner that says START, only she's looking at the back of it.

“Wait. T-R-A-T-S?”

Then we waited around tapping our feet impatiently waiting for it to be 5 am.

Photo of four people standing in the dark.

Patient. And in remarkably good spirits for 4:57 a.m. (Heather, Bob, Marisa, Marc)

Soon enough it was 5:00 and Lyda set off with the rest of the starters. There were 5 or 6 other teams that started at the same time that we did, but by the time we started leg 2, she was ahead of all but two of them.

We got a little lost looking for exchange #1, but we eventually found it before Lyda arrived and saw that leg two led off down an unlit trail that was Pitch. Fucking. Black. There could have been anything down there. It was intense. Fortunately that leg belonged to Marisa, who took off with a bounce in her step and, hopefully, a knowledge of basic self-defense maneuvers to protect herself from people and gators.

Leg three was Marc’s and was what everyone referred to as “The Swamp Leg.” While the rest of the race was on roads and paths and was more or less flat, this leg was on a trail with hills and roots and rocks and, according to the race packet, maybe even a boar. The race organizers time runners on this leg and give a special prize to the person who runs it fastest because it is so challenging. And! If your start time is 5 am, you get to run it IN THE DARK.

Photo of me standing by a sign that says, "Graham Swamp Conservation Area East Trailhead" The sun is rising behind me.

Heather took this photo of me while Marc was running the swamp leg. I assume it was even darker in, you know, the swamp.

I was runner four, so when Marc suddenly popped out of the swamp (in first place now!), I grabbed the baton and took off. I could tell there was a runner behind me, but I was determined to stay in front of him for as long as I could.

Team MLC is scrappy and we have some speedy runners on our team, but we tend to get passed by other teams who catch up to us and surge ahead. I am often the one who is passed. I wanted to keep this guy behind me for as long as possible on my four-mile leg.

I could feel him getting closer as I passed one mile. I decided to try to stay in front until I got to two miles. Eventually I realized that he had fallen back and I was secure in my first place spot. I kept my speed up though and came into my exchange almost four minutes faster than I had estimated.

Photo of me running.

Me being speedy.

I passed the baton to Heather, who took off only to be called back by the volunteer at the exchange who said she was going the wrong way. She knew she was going the right way, but got rattled enough that she came back. Fortunately another team who had run the race before was waiting for their runner and told her to keep going her original way. They were our angels.

Our van sped off to meet her at the end of her leg where two things amused me to no end.

Marisa in a coat, long pants, hat, and gloves.

(1) Marisa, who lives in MONTANA, freezing in Florida.

A rock. There are posts on either side of it and there is a hole in the middle through which a chain anchors it to the ground.

(2) This rock that was chained to the ground. First I tried to figure out WHY it was chained to the ground then I tried to pick it up and steal it. I failed in both endeavors.

Bob took up the baton at the rock and headed back the way Heather had come and we rode off to meet him. It turns out that the exchange that Heather had left from gets used as the start of two different legs, so that is why the volunteer got mixed up. Fortunately we had it all figured out by now so by the time Bob gave Lyda the baton and a kiss to start her on leg 7 of the race, we were all set.

I have to say, while I really enjoyed this race, the race guide had led me to believe that we were going to see all kinds of fun animals, like alligators and maybe peacocks and even otters, on the course. I saw one dead, smashed armadillo.

It was disappointing.

But not too disappointing, because Team MLC was on fire, continuing our streak of being awesome. Marisa took the baton from Lyda for the next leg, which included a really tall bridge in what was starting to become the hot sun. She persevered though, cruising into the next exchange to hand off to Marc.

I was running the next leg, a six and a quarter long route that had one turn and a reeeeeaaaaaally long stretch along a straight road. I was expecting Marc to come down the same long straightaway that I was going to head out on, so I was surprised when he burst out of a side trail, sending me down my road before I even knew what was happening.

I ran 0.8 miles, took a left turn and started down my long road at which point I was passed by some teenager from a team that was apparently made up of high school running champions. She giggled as she passed me and quickly left me in the dust. We never saw them again.

My exchange was on the sidewalk of the road I was running down and it came into view, like, FOREVER before I got there. I felt like I was running toward it for a million years without it getting closer. I stayed pretty close to my estimated time for this leg at 11:30 min/mi, which I still consider a pretty good pace for me.

I passed off to Heather, who set off on perhaps the hottest and least shady leg of the race. The real bummer though was when she took her one right turn and was confronted with another really tall bridge to run over. That must have been demoralizing to run up to. And over.

Once she arrived at her exchange, Bob was our only runner left. Happily it was really hot by this time and he was wearing a black shirt. Good planning, Bob. He headed off for his leg, which included running back up the bridge and down a set of stairs. We meandered off to the finish line which was at Flagler Beach.

Photo of a beach with a pier. There is a roof on which is painted "Flagler Beach"

I can’t even imagine living in a place where going to the beach in November is a possibility.

Well, actually, the finish line was on a sidewalk across the street, but that wasn’t as pretty.

A sidewalk with finish line flags.

See?

Before too long we saw Bob cruising down the sidewalk and we all fell in line behind him to cross the finish line together. We ended up coming in 32nd of 45 teams (not bad for us!), but we were the second team to cross the finish line (GREAT for us!).

Photo of all six of us wearing our banana t-shirts and medals and smiling.

Team MLC is the greatest. Each of us super rocked the Oceans 50.

The race organizers had food and beer (and real actual bathrooms—Best. Race. Ever.) for us at a restaurant at the finish line. We ate and then drove back to the beach house where we took turns in the single shower with the tiny hot water heater. Turns out we are just as good at showering quickly as we are at running, because everyone got hot water. Yay, us! We really are a team. :)

We left earlyish the next morning to fly back home, making this a whirlwind trip. It was really good for my soul though to be out in the fresh air doing something I love with people I love. I am really glad we were able to do it. Thanks, Captain Heather, for doing such an incredible job organizing us. Thanks, Bob and Lyda, for hosting us. And thanks, Marisa and Marc, for just being generally awesome.

Photo of sunrise over the ocean, grass, and some palm trees.

Thanks, Florida.

Now We Are Gerbil Lovers in Name Only

In other news about how 2016 can #suckit, Stimeyland is now gerbilless.

I discovered my last gerbil—the very elderly statesman King—dead in his tank on Wednesday. He was one of the babies born more than three and a half years ago.

Honestly, the last year has been like a grim game of Gerbil Survivor where, instead of being voted off the island, you end up in a trash bag with assorted paper shavings. There has been a lot of gerbil death here in the recent past.

I’m not getting any new rodents for a while. But I will miss them. They’re fun to have around.

Photo of King the gerbil in life.

King, you will be missed.

We Will Meet What Comes

It’s not okay.
It’s not going to be okay.
But we will meet what comes.

I am heartbroken by the presidential election. I am scared. I am furious. I don’t normally write about politics here, now choosing to use this blog as a family scrapbook and photo album, but this is something we need to remember. We need to remember and note the day that hate won the presidency.

It’s not okay.
It’s not going to be okay.
But we will meet what comes.

People say we should get over it. But someone drew swastikas on the wall at my neighborhood middle school. Someone wrote “kill kill kill blacks” on the wall at the school where Jack spent the last two years of elementary school. Someone defaced banners at a church in a neighboring town with the words, “Trump’s America Whites Only.” We need to see this and count this and stand up to this.

It’s not okay.
It’s not going to be okay.
But we will meet what comes.

My kids cried the morning after the election. Alex and I hugged them and told them it would be okay. (I don’t think it’s going to be okay.) A week after the election, hundreds of kids from area high schools walked out of class to protest Donald Trump. Hundreds of internet commenters spewed hatred at these children who were using their voices and their feet to protest in the only way available to them—one of the most fundamental and American ways of getting heard. We need to watch those kids so we can protect them and follow their lead.

It’s not okay.
It’s not going to be okay.
But we will meet what comes.

Thousands have protested Donald Trump. People on his side say it is unfair. They say that if Clinton had won and they had protested that Democrats would be enraged. (I think we would have been afraid.) That might be true, but if they were peacefully protesting, they would be exercising a fundamental right as Americans. We need to remember these rights and guard them—rights to speech, to assembly, to religion, to a free press.

It’s not okay.
It’s not going to be okay.
But we will meet what comes.

Trump voters say the election is over and we need to accept the results. To that I say that we have accepted the results. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have accepted the results. Power will peacefully transition. But we who see Donald Trump as a dangerous man get to tell other Americans and the world, “THIS IS NOT US. WE WILL FIGHT THIS. WE DO NOT SUPPORT DONALD TRUMP AND HIS HATE.”

It’s not okay.
It’s not going to be okay.
But we will meet what comes.

It probably hasn’t really been okay for a long time. This racism, this homophobia, this misogyny, this anti-immigrant, -Muslim, -disability country has been this way for years, decades, centuries. At least now everyone can see it—not just its traditional victims. We have to keep our eyes open so we can witness and aid and fight.

It’s not okay.
It’s not going to be okay.
But we will meet what comes.

Censorship and bullying of the media. The Supreme Court. The Department of Justice. Climate change. International relations. Human rights. Immigration. Marriage equality. Reproductive rights and freedoms. Healthcare. Medicaid. The criminal justice system. Environmental protections. Education. Police reform. Disability policy. Living as a citizen of the world. Everything is at risk. We all need to put our elected officials’ phone numbers and addresses on our desks and speak up every time this administration tries to hurt us.

It’s not okay.
It’s not going to be okay.
But we will meet what comes.

People look at their lives and their situation and say, “I didn’t want this, but I will be all right.” We must not do that. We must care about our neighbors and the people who live across the city from us. We must care for the vulnerable among us as if they were our children. We must know that even if we think this election doesn’t really affect us on a day-to-day level all that much, it will have personal, devastating effects on others and we must not turn away from them.

It’s not okay.
It’s not going to be okay.
But we will meet what comes.

This is not just another election. (It’s not okay.) Donald Trump and the people around him are dangerous to our country and its people. (It’s not going to be okay.) We must be strong and loud and not let fear silence us. Those of us with the privilege to be able to fight must do so, if not for ourselves, for others. (But we will meet what comes.)

I am a firm believer in free speech. I always have been. You have every right to say whatever you might want to in this country. But that does not mean that you can say whatever you want to in my comments section. I have close LGBTQ+ family. My family is neurodiverse. I believe in Black Lives Matter. I know that most Muslims are peaceful. I am aware that immigrants play a vital role in America. I am scared and millions of others are scared with me. No one will be allowed to scare others here.

It’s not okay.

It’s not going to be okay.

But we will meet what comes.

Open House and My Love/Hate Relationship

My kids are funny at school. I know this because once a year our school district has an open house day where you can go sit in on your kids’ classes without looking helicopter-y and like THAT mom. Being THAT mom, I totally go to all my kids’ schools.

Monday of this week was this year’s open house. I learned a lot of things that day. Without further ado:

20 Things I Learned at This Year’s Open House:

1. It is extremely exhausting to visit all three of my special sugar-encrusted snowflakes in their natural habitats. I was at school as long as my kids were. Plus, I didn’t get to pee or eat during that time. Note: I like to both pee and eat more often than every six hours.

2. Before deciding on the order of attendance at each of my kids’ schools, I should have probably checked the hours of the open house. I lucked into choosing the right order, but it turns out that open house for one ended at noon and for another ended at 12:40. Thank goodness I had coincidentally made those stops one and two.

3. Jack is a participator. He raised his hand in both classes that I observed him in. Including math. Math! And he did it with no noticeable angst or blushing. I always thought that if my maternity were ever questioned it would be because of Quinn and his blond hair. Turns out it’s going to be because of Jack and his friendliness and class participation and deep thoughts about math.

4. It is entirely possible that Jack has been lying about not having English homework every night, because I heard in class about the English homework he had and he sure didn’t volunteer that information when he got home.

5. Quinn puts an overly dramatic, “BRO!” at the end of responses he gives to his (female) teacher after he gives an answer.

6. Quinn is extremely lucky that his teacher is cool.

7. Quinn is going to make a ceramic candle holder in art class.

8. Quinn plans to get rich by mass producing ceramic candle holders like the one he’s designing for art class. He also plans to force his friends to be his workforce.

9. It is extremely difficult to find a parking spot at Sam’s high school.

10. Few parents go to open house at Sam’s high school.

11. Even *I* was a little embarrassed to be going to open house at Sam’s high school.

12. It was totally worth it to go to open house at Sam’s high school, because Sam is cool and I really like the relationship that I am developing with teenager Sam.

13. Going to a high school during the school day was vaguely uncomfortable and made me feel bad for all the kids who have to deal with four years of high school. It gets better, kids!

14. Sam learned in biology that the stomach can comfortably hold 33 ounces. This made both of us wonder how he ate that 50-ounce steak when we were on vacation in Wisconsin. (Yes, he really did. You’ll hear about it if/when I am finally able to finish writing about summer vacation.)

Photo from behind of Sam sitting at a desk in biology class.

15. I will follow the rule of “no cell phones or photography during open house” until the end of the day when I’m tired and hungry and I think the teacher won’t catch me.

16. Stopping on the way home to buy food for you and your eating machine teenager will make you feel ever so much better.

17. I have three very amazing children who are so fantastically different and wonderful.

18. Even though part of me kinda hates open house day, part of me is so grateful for it.

19. Sorry, kiddos. I’m coming to open house day until the bitter end of Quinn’s senior year of high school.

20. I continue to be THAT mom.

Greedy and Unauthorized

I have a fat cat and a slender cat. And three other cats. (One of them is super ripped. We imagine her doing sit-ups while we sleep so she can get buff and keep the younger cats submissive. It’s working.)

Anyway, we have a fat cat…

Picture of a black and white cat sitting on a couch ottoman. She's sitting up kind of like a person but more like a cat who just recently stopped licking her butt.

Wait, what did you just say?

…and a slim cat.

Photo of a small black cat looking at the camera.

Puuuuuuurrrrrrrrr.

The fat cat is Oreo. She is named after a delicious cookie. She never had a chance. The thin cat is named Starfire. She’s always been tiny.

Anywho, we wanted to put Oreo on a diet because that level of pudge isn’t healthy for a cat and what with her and Quinn’s weird (so, so fucking weird) and absolute codependence, she can never die. To facilitate this, we asked the vet how to trim her down.

We feed our cats canned food morning and night (not a lot, but some) and free feed them kibble during the day. The vet suggested we only leave the kibble out for an hour or so in the morning and the evening. Which we did.

Picture of a black and white cat sitting on a couch ottoman. She's sitting up kind of like a person but more like a cat who just recently stopped licking her butt.

WHHHHHHYYYYYYY?????

None of the cats much appreciated not having access to food at all hours of the day, but I was more concerned about Starfire than anyone. I kind of feel that she needs to have the ability to eat whenever she wants to. I mean, she is practically emaciated. When we restricted her food, she started doing things like eating crumbs and leaves off of the floor.

Because we didn’t want to starve Starfire to death and much to all five cats’ relief, we returned to our freefeeding ways.

Then one day I was sitting in the vet waiting room flipping through a magazine when I came across an ad for the SureFeed microchip feeding system. This “pet food bowl” or “bizarre archway to lunch” has a lid that folds back when it recognizes the microchip from a specific pet.

Photo of an orange cat eating out of a bowl. The bowl has an arch through which the cat has stuck his head. There is a clear lid folded back, giving the cat access to the food bowl.

Not our cat. Our cats are strictly bichromatic–not garish orange.

This was the answer! The pet shelter where we got our cats microchips all of their animals, so Starfire was all ready for this system. Once we purchased this bowl, Starfire could eat whenever she wanted to and Oreo could not.

We bought the bowl and I set about to reading the instructions, which were hilarious for many reasons, first of which is that they were very law and order with instructions that started with “If the pet is authorised and allowed to eat…”

Also you can tell that the instructions are fancy because they use an “s” in “authorized” instead of a “z.” Furthermore, this instruction book was clearly not written by someone whose first language is English, leading to fun subject headings like “Learning your pet into the feeder,” which is really just a couple of typos away from becoming some sort of animal horror snuff film.

There is a whole process involved in teaching your authorised pet to eat from this thing, first of which is getting the bowl to recognize that (and only that) cat. The way to do that is to push the “add pet” button on the back and then wait for your thin cat to poke her head through the arch while you lurk around trying not to scare her away from the feeder at the same time that you do try to scare away the unauthorised cat.

I didn’t want to stuff Starfire through the thing, thus ensuring that she would freak out and never go near the bowl again, but the instruction book told me that “no amount of waving your pet in front of the feeder will have an effect,” which could just have easily said, “Don’t be a dumbass about this, Stimey.”

I spent the better part of the day lurking near the food bowl with no success until my actions motivated Sam to prove he was better than me by luring Starfire into the archway, causing the bowl to recognize her. I was so relieved that he’d done it that I couldn’t even be annoyed by his smug little attitude.

I only added Starfire to the bowl because, let’s be honest, none of the rest of the animals really need to snack throughout the day. If I’d wanted to though, I could have added up to 32 pets as authorised eaters. I have lots of thoughts about someone who would need 32 pets on this thing. I also have thoughts about how sad it would be to be the 33rd pet.

My favorite part of the instructions, however, was one sentence about the cat this bowl is designed to keep out. It didn’t speak of the cat with the medically sensitive diet or the cat with slight self-control issues. It flat out fat shamed the fuck out of Oreo:

“If an unauthorised greedy pet tries to eat from the feeder when the lid is closed then the lid will simply not open.”

I like the lack of comma there which implies that the subject is a “greedy pet” modified by “unauthorised,” as opposed to a normal pet, modified by both “unauthorised” and “greedy.”

Picture of a black and white cat sitting on a couch ottoman. She's sitting up kind of like a person but more like a cat who just recently stopped licking her butt.

Hurtful.

We spent close to a month moving through the training stages. At first you just leave the lid open, then you set it so it closes just a little, then more, then more and more. It’s pretty clever actually, getting them used to the short noise and movement gradually in something like five increments.

Two days ago, we were ready. I pushed the button that closed the lid on the bowl and waited to see if Starfire would manage to open the bowl and if Oreo would lose her shit completely. Yes on both counts.

Poor Oreo. I watched her look carefully through the clear plastic lid to the food beneath. She sniffed the feeder. She moved around to the front and nudged it with her nose. Clearly, she thought, this is broken. Somebody should fix this.

Then she clawed at the lid. She tried to bite the lid open. She stood on top of it to investigate the back of the lid perhaps in hopes that the open part was now on the back. Then she clawed and bit at the front of it again.

It was sad. I too have been pudgy and hungry myself and it sucks.

I literally just now heard the bowl open and I looked into the feeding area only to see Oreo kind of nudging Starfire out of the way so she could get to the food. She got just about one mouthful before the lid shut on her.

Again, very sad.

Photo of three cats near the feeder, an empty bowl, and a water dish. Oreo looks a little desperate.

If cats could speak, two of these would be saying, “It is 8:38 for chrissakes, it is well fucking past dinnertime.” The third one would not be saying that. Because it is always dinnertime for her. Plus, she doesn’t use curse words.

Maybe if you could be less greedy and unauthorised, you could eat at lunchtime too, Oreo.

Picture of a black and white cat sitting on a couch ottoman. She's sitting up kind of like a person but more like a cat who just recently stopped licking her butt.

I hope you all feel good about yourselves.

I’m so glad I am not a cat, subject to the whims and laughter of my owners.